BARRY PIKESLEY: Jumpin' Kyle Flash

The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" of 6 September, 2014.


Back in 1969, those two famous natives of Dartford, namely Messrs. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, issued the prudent caveat that You Can't Always Get What You Want. Alas, watching the Robins slide to three consecutive Vanarama Conference defeats has only served to corroborate that particular sentiment in the minds of all Altrincham FC supporters.

Consequently, the warm afterglow generated by that conquest of Bristol Rovers has receded somewhat.

The Southport away fixture seems to have been an exasperating instance of at least a point being squandered amidst the Robins succumbing to defensive frailties from crosses.

Two days later, I felt that we exhibited rather too much caution against a Gateshead side who arrived at the J Davidson Stadium still shell-shocked from a 6-1 mauling on home territory at the hands of Grimsby Town and who were fielding their second-choice goalkeeper in only his second appearance for the club. So, plenty of endeavour but only two meaningful shots on target. As another son of Dartford, the late Malcolm Allison once remarked: “A lot of hard work went into this defeat.”

Incidentally, that must have been the largest gathering of supporters that Gateshead have ever brought to this ground. As Alty diehard Bill Waterson wryly commented in the Noel White Suite after the match: “I’ve seen smaller home contingents at Gateshead than that.”

Having not ventured to Nuneaton Town last Saturday, I sought solace in the words of the Radio Robins commentary team, for whom the correct pronunciation of our old friend Exodus Geohaghon’s surname caused predictable consternation. What duly unfolded sounded like an extremely grim contest between two pedestrian teams that is simply best forgotten.

Pre-match observations pertaining to Nuneaton Town’s failure to score even a single goal in their preceding five league fixtures somewhat inevitably tempted fate and the home side promptly broke their duck after a total of 485 minutes playing time of this nascent season had elapsed.

The deficit had increased to 2-0 after 67 minutes and, notwithstanding a late strike from Damian Reeves, the Boro did not fade away and there would prove to be no comeback of Kate Bush proportions from the Robins. Any more dispiriting results like that and I’ll be heading straight for my 19th nervous breakdown.

Anyhow, let’s hope that this will be the last time that we find ourselves inhabiting one of the relegation spots in the league table during this campaign and trust that a heartening victory over Dartford this afternoon will go some way to eradicating much of the current doom and gloom.

Dartford have made merely three previous visits to Moss Lane, the last of which occurred almost 29 years ago in the guise of a goalless Gola League fixture enacted on Saturday, 21st September 1985. Back then, the Kent side were managed by John Still, who guided Luton Town to promotion back into the Football League last season, and their line-up on that afternoon included the Darts’ current manager Tony Burman in the No. 10 shirt.

Saturday, 24th October 1981 represented Dartford’s debut at this stadium, when Alty secured a 2-0 Alliance Premier League victory in front of 1,129 spectators, courtesy of goals from Barry Howard and Derek Goulding. When the Darts finally returned on Saturday, 27th April 1985 for a Gola League fixture, the Robins would again emerge triumphant, this time via a 2-1 outcome in which their goalscorers were John Davison and Tommy Smith.

In the five encounters between the two sides at Watling Street, Dartford’s former ground, the Robins have only contrived a solitary success. That arose back in an Alliance Premier League clash staged there on Saturday, 13th March 1982, when an attendance of 885 witnessed Alty complete the league double over the Darts by means of a first half goal from that diminutive, moustachioed Scouse striker Phil McGreal, who had joined the Robins from West Cheshire League club Stork FC earlier that season and progressed through George Rooney's Reserves team.

Alty supporters of a certain vintage will also recollect a sixth visit to Watling Street in the shape of a GM Vauxhall Conference assignment on Saturday, 27th August 1988. However, on this occasion, the ’home’ side were Maidstone United, whose exile on Watling Street comprised them ground-sharing there in the aftermath of the recent sale of their own London Road stadium. The ensuing abject 7-2 capitulation by Alty against the eventual Champions transpired to be Jeff Johnson’s penultimate game as the Robins’ manager.

I’ve undertaken the expedition down to the Garden of England in order to watch the Robins cross swords with the Darts on two separate occasions, the first of which was for Alty‘s debut at Watling Street way back on Saturday, 14th March 1981 in an FA Trophy Quarter-Final. The majority of the crowd of 3,511 duly went home happy after the hosts’ 3-1 win. I can assure you that the subsequent long trek home as an Alty supporter was conspicuously less joyous.

When digging out the programme from that aforementioned FA Trophy tie for research purposes, I stumbled upon a page of notes that I had written about the match. I had taken umbrage at what I had perceived to have been an ultra-defensive strategy by the Robins during the opening 45 minutes, which had backfired to the calamitous extent that the Darts were 2-0 up at half-time.

The more attacking approach adopted in the second half saw the Robins attain the upper hand and John Rogers, Mal Bailey and John Davison all went close to scoring before Barry Whitbread’s 62nd-minute low shot crept into the Darts’ net. Alas, nine minutes later, Stan Allan’s misjudged lob back to John Connaughton fell catastrophically short of its intended recipient and Gary Julians promptly capitalised on this blunder. The Robins rallied once again and a Graham Heathcote shot struck the post, however, their attempted eleventh-hour salvage operation simply ran out of time.

Another FA Trophy Quarter-Final meeting constituted Alty’s final excursion to Watling Street, where the two clubs locked horns on Saturday, 11th March 1989 in front of a gate of 1,629. A deflating display from the Robins saw them tumble out of the competition through Steve Robinson’s second half goal for the then Beazer Homes League Premier Division outfit, whose player-manager Peter Taylor would, of course, go on to be an ephemeral England national football team manager.

For the record, the Alty line-up on that day was as follows: (1) Jeff Wealands (2) Mike Farrelly (3) Darren Heesom (4) Paul Cuddy (5) Martin Baker (6) Ronnie Ellis (7) Nicky Daws (8) Nigel Shaw (9) Keith Mountford (10) Barry Knowles (11) Andy Kilner. Subs: (12) Danny Crerand (14) Joey Dunn.

The match programme discloses that the previous Tuesday evening’s match had marked “home debut night for scores of inflatable penguins, the new Watling Street craze. The highlight of the mass appearance was the formation flying to The Dam Busters theme. Very impressive.”

Let there be no sympathy for the Dartford at the J Davidson Stadium this afternoon. Paint it red.